Australia’s COVID-19 restrictions are affecting people in different ways. So what can business owners and managers do if members of a team have varying levels of motivation?

Vu Tran

GO1 co-founder and head of growth


All team members are different. We are all individuals, but in a company, we align around common values and common goals.

At Go1, with a globally distributed workforce, lockdowns and restrictions across different geographies have been a challenge, to say the least.

At a micro-level, we’ve found it incredibly important to understand where each individual is at, and, as best we can, tailor to their needs and challenges relative to their circumstances.

This comes from making sure that individuals and their managers know they have our full support to navigate the challenges they have, whether it be personal or professional.

It’s a cliché to say people are our greatest asset, but during challenging times, it can never be more true.

At a macro-level, this comes to a dogged focus on the ‘why’.

Where motivation wanes, there is an opportunity for mission, vision and values to come to the fore. During times like these, it is more important than ever to remind ourselves and our teams, as Simon Sinek says, of the ‘why’.

Jessica Ruhfus

Collabosaurus founder and chief executive officer


This year has shown that businesses can be far more flexible and quick to implement change than ever before.

With change comes a lot of adjustment, but I believe there’s an opportunity for managers to individualise working arrangements for employees.

We’re not all productive at 9am, for example, and taking elements like homeschooling into consideration, leaders can develop outcome-focused plans that lean into employees’ individual working needs and preferences.

This, in turn, has a huge impact on motivation and productivity because people can work on their own terms as long as they’re completing their work.

Adam Schwab

Luxury Escapes co-founder, angel investor and former corporate lawyer


It’s a super difficult question because so much of the modern workplace revolves around collaboration. While lots of our team members like the flexibility and efficiency of working from home, we need to make sure we don’t lose connection with each other.

Our people and culture team has been fantastic at coming up with ways to bring the team together, often with fun stuff like ‘wine + whine’ meetups or virtual trivia.

Another really key aspect is ensuring that team members are recognised and rewarded for the continuing contributions they make. Often, paradoxically, things like recording activity, which is often associated negatively, can be positive as a way to recognise team members who are going above and beyond.

In the end, it’s less about managing people, and more about ensuring you have the right people in your team.

Members with high motivation, problem-solving ability and initiative will be successful in any environment they are working in, so the real challenge is ensuring you have the right team in both normal times and during a pandemic, where it becomes so much more critical.

Mina Radhakrishnan

:Different co-founder


We’re a tech company at heart, so transitioning to remote working was fairly easy for us, with many tech tools and remote working processes already in place.

But keeping the team connected while working from home was a big focus for us. Especially as we welcome many new people to our team.

We’ve started virtual wine downs every Friday, where we all share a wine (or tea) over Zoom to keep us all connected.

We also introduced a ‘quarantine’ Slack channel, which has become a place for ‘watercooler’ talk throughout the day.

We’ve also been encouraging our team to prioritise their personal health and wellbeing and to be mindful of their work-life balance.

And this is particularly true for founders themselves too.

As a leader steering the ship, it’s important to take care of your physical and mental wellbeing so you can look after your teams.

And finally, be empathetic and patient with your teams.

Remember everyone is experiencing COVID-19 differently and facing different pressures, so understanding one approach won’t work for all.

Sarah Cotton

Transitioning Well co-director, and organisational psychologist


During this challenging time, it is important for organisations to consider the needs of individual team members, because everyone is different. Providing clarity, direction and support, and encouraging and trusting employees to focus on key outcomes, will motivate and empower workers and leaders to adjust work design and better function within current constraints.

A psychologically safe work environment can really nurture motivation, and encourage creative discussions around how to collaborate and connect. Take the time to encourage your teams to give and share feedback, as insight from workers can be incredibly valuable, and asking rather than assuming will help identify each person’s unique needs and maximise their contribution.

There is an onus on leaders to identify team member’s challenges and identify the factors that motivate their behaviour. These factors may be related to how the worker problem solves, manages their workday, takes on or delegates responsibilities, and the way in which they stay connected with others.

Remembering there’s no one-size-fits-all is really important.

Identifying whether team members are stuck on highs (for example, more anxious, angry or overwhelmed), or stuck on lows (for example, procrastinating, finding it hard to concentrate or seemingly physically flat), will help managers determine whether their teams may need input from a professional.

To help your teams with their varying levels of motivation, encourage them to identify how they are feeling, share feedback with you, or a key colleague or professional, and continue to ‘check-in’ with them as to how they are.

Lucy Liu

Airwallex co-founder and president

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Even though we’re all in this together, we understand that people may not have an identical experience or response to the lockdown and restrictions. Some may find remote working is their ideal scenario and some others may find it hugely challenging as they miss the daily interactions with the team.

To help our teams cope, this year we started working with Uprise to introduce an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) to support the mental health and fitness of our teams. The EAP includes access to experienced psychologists who can provide 1:1 coaching, as well as crisis support.

Everyone in our Melbourne team has access to professional counsellors who are available to support on any matter, professional or personal, with the assurance that sessions are confidential.

We’ve also tried to inject some fun into our everyday routines. This week, everyone in our team received a jigsaw puzzle of the graffiti artwork from our Melbourne office.

However, we recognise there is no one-size-fits-all response, and that an individualised approach is also important in helping us provide the best support possible to the team.

Our managers have increased the number of one-to-one check-ins with their team, as it’s really important for our teams to know that someone is always around and available if they’re feeling low, or overwhelmed or unmotivated.

Artist: Danny Awes/90 Degrees.

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